Camp Lejeune: About The Hazardous Chemicals

Toxic Water At Camp Lejeune

People who lived or worked at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between the years 1953 and 1987 may have been exposed to water that was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOC), such as benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and vinyl chloride.

Toxic WaterBenzene, TCE, and VC are all classified as cancer-causing chemicals, while PCE is classified as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Exposure to these substances can also increase the risk of birth defects and numerous other health problems.

So, where are these chemicals typically found and what are they used for? What are the more specific risks associated with exposure to these chemicals? In this article, we will delve deeper into each of these VOCs found in the water at Camp Lejeune.


This chemical is widely used to make other chemicals, and to manufacturer common products such as rubber, lubricants, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Benzene is a known human carcinogen as determined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Benzene can enter the body through your lungs, gastrointestinal tract and across the skin. It targets the nervous system and the blood forming organs. Exposure to benzene is known to cause harm to the tissues that form blood cells, especially the bone marrow causing anemia, bleeding, infection and lowering the body’s defenses against cancer. Benzene is also associated with the harming reproductive organs including ovaries and babies in utero. More information regarding the toxic effects of Benzene may be found here.

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)/perchloroethylene (PERC)

Toxic Chemicals In Water - Camp Lejeune - Water StudyThis chemical is used as a dry-cleaning and metal degreasing agent, and also used as a starting material for making other chemicals. This chemical can easily enter the body when you drink, touch, or breathe in steam from contaminated water. It has been determined likely to be carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure by the Environmental Protection Agency. Exposure to this chemical is known to harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and exposure is known to put people at higher risk of getting cancer. More information regarding the toxic effects of PCE/PERC may be found here.

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

This chemical is used as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, to make other chemicals including the refrigerant, HFC-134a, and is a component of adhesives, lubricants, paints, paint stripper, and pesticides. TCE is considered a multisite carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Exposure to TCE is known to be associated with kidney cancer, lymphoma and harmful effects to the nervous, immune, and respiratory systems, blood, kidneys, heart, and liver. More information regarding the toxic effects of TCE may be found here.

Vinyl chloride

Toxic Water - Water Testing - Camp Lejeune Toxic Water This is a manufactured chemical that can be formed when other chemicals like TCE and PCE are broken down. The most common use for vinyl chloride is used to polyvinyl chloride (also known commonly as PVC). Vinyl Chloride is recognized as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Vinyl Chloride can enter the body by drinking contaminated water and even small amounts can pass through the skin. Exposure to this chemical is associated with harm to reproductive organs and an increased risk of certain cancers. More information regarding the toxic effects of Vinyl Chloride may be found here.

Who conducted the studies?

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the United States agency with the mission to protect communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to hazardous substances, completed several studies to determine if Marines, Navy personal and civilians residing and working on US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune were at increased risk for injury due to exposure to water contaminated with these four (4) known dangerous chemicals. It found elevated risks for many cancers and other diseases. A summary of ATSDR’s findings and complete report can be accessed here.

Get Help Now

If you lived or served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987 and have suffered any of the injuries listed on this page, you may be eligible for compensation that can help pay for medical treatment and more. ClickChat, or call 1800LAW1010 24/7 for a free case review and take the first step toward justice today.

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